Collective Sharing From Sydney EA Round Table Discussions

Three primary themes were raised as challenges for discussion by delegates during the round tables at the recent Sydney Executive PA Summit at Pullman Sydney Hyde Park

In the classic book ‘Think And Grow Rich’, first published in 1937, Napoleon Hill described the co-ordination of knowledge and effort between two or more people, the coming together of multiple minds if you will, akin to creating a third perspective: also known as a mastermind.

It’s also a little eye opening to consider that unless the daily problems one faces involves something as left field as colonising humanity on Mars, there’s an exceptionally high likelihood the majority of obstacles you strive to surmount have already been faced and conquered by countless others.

It’s true we are uniquely individual. The lives we’ve lived, the influences we’ve had, the environments we’ve grown up or worked in.  All have nurtured or challenged us, forging their way into the four layers of our behavior: our preferences in terms of how we operate, our motivations, our competencies or  intelligences and indeed E.E: everything else! Which includes our doubts, fears, limiting beliefs and the meanings we’ve attached to virtually all situations previously experienced in our world!

That said, even if the challenges you face are not completely identical (which invariably they won’t be, given you’re tackling them with your life experience, not someone elses) the similarities will invoke fresh thinking from a new lens from those who’ve been there before.

The combination of these ideas relate to the power of the recent roundtables at the Executive PA Summit in Sydney.  If you’ve also had any sort of background or exposure in the fielf of learning and development you’ll also appreciate that any well facilitated, free flowing discussions amongst a peer group might prove to be amongst the powerful ignition or aha moments for continued personal and professional growth.

On that note, three primary themes were raised as challenges for discussion during the round tables.

1) How do you get peers or colleagues to view your role well beyond calendar organisation!

That old chestnut! A conversation that’s existed in a variety of forms for a long time.  It’s one covered previously, to some degree, in an EA Media online piece highlighting the evolution of traditional roles: ‘ ‘How EA’s and PA’s can master the role’s many hats

Fortunately there are many business leaders and key stakeholders now that realise and champion this evolution of responsibilities. Indeed EA’s and PA’s have a viable pathway into senior and C-suite leadership.

If you are still facing this challenge though there were some excellent tips provided from the mastermind:

1) Put your hand up and ask! Sometimes unless we are the ones making it clear we wish to be involved, some folks may not see it or connect the dots. That doesn’t necessarily mean there is any malice or prejudice. It may well be short sightedness, more habit or thinking within customary parameters associated with typical titles.

Once you strive for responsibilities and projects falling outside any typical, old school EA/PA remits you  pro-actively re-educate all around on your capabilities, competence and willingness.

2) Insert yourself into projects. Even if you’re not eating the whole elephant, as it were, it’s possible to be take bites. Identify where you skill sets may be of great value as a key contributor to sizeable projects.

3) Develop your own assertiveness. This is in no way a gender fact, yet In a well known interview, filled with friction, between Jordan Pederson and Cathy Newman on the subject of gender pay gaps, there’s a part where Peterson points out women (authors note: perhaps in part due to their natural roles as empathetic nurturers) may be more agreeable than their male counterparts. Assertiveness is highlighted as a worthy skill for cultivating which has significant benefits in this regard.

There are many ways to do improve one’s assertiveness. A few quick ideas include:

– Contributing your opinions, even if it at first feels uncomfortable

– Develop self-confidence and self esteem through tools like positive affirmations and periodic updated skill inventories

– Develop emotional intelligence and keep emotions in check

2) The ongoing challenge of hybrid work and an expectation of being in the office five days a week:

Roles being advertised as full time in the office, falling within the remit of EA’s, have been challenging to fill: without a single candidate application. In many ways this was candidly discussed as no surprise.

The ongoing debate surrounding what hybrid work looks like remains a hot topic not just in the world of EA’s and PAS’s but pretty much all businesses, all departments everywhere.

Some candid inputs from the collective on this subject included:

1) No matter how office bound the role may be there are likely still subtle aspects that may be considered remotely.  Examples were given where even front of house, front desk office roles, worked remotely for a day and any face to face in office duties were then collectively covered: the meet and greet aspects of such interactions on rotation for that day.

2) There’s a strong case for hybrid and so any concessions at all, whether it be half a day or full day (as with the example shared before) may increase the likelihood of some candidate attraction.  Remaining firmly rooted without some level of concession may prove challenging in terms of filling any required roles ongoing.

3) Even companies that have gone fully remote (some examples were shared within the room!) appreciate that days of bringing people together remain a part of forging the culture.

It’s a deeper discussion than this article alone yet it’s worth noting that even many orgs (often in the arena of tech that empower us with the tools to function remotely) have leaned back towards hybrid models. No single company philosophy ought to be adopted here as there are nuances such as vertical, industry, roles and existing culture.

In it’s simplest form though, when you think about human behaviour, there may well be people who are happy working forever from home. Equally there are peers amongst your teams who thrive on the office interactions of which they’ve been starved. The point of being in a business, being part of the culture, is to think of ‘we’ beyond ‘me’.

3) How do you engage or influence stakeholders and businesses to adopt technology – or to adopt systems and process amidst change.

Ideas from the power of the mastermind group steered towards:

1) Explain the process with clarity and focus on components that are essential or critical. Often when we’re getting others to adopt a new process (especially where the use or checking in with tech is required) we are changing behaviours and habits. So by focusing on simplification this adaptation and subsequent adoption may become easier.

2) Make sure to spend time demonstrating and helping people do it for themselves. Don’t succumb to the temptation of doing it for them. It’s far more powerful to teach people how to fish than continually spread yourself thin by fishing for them!

3) This actually had correlation to the prior conversation, the one about assertiveness and inserting oneself into projects! If you’re involved in highlighting risks or benefits of particular systems at the time of implementation or rollout of processes (including technology) this may well pre empt some of problems you otherwise may face in this regard.

Again this specific conversation relates in part to several previously published pieces.

‘Leadership Traits For EA’s’, in print for Executive PA Magazine (pages 54 & 55)

 ‘How EA’s Can Lead The Road To Recovery In 2021’ also in print for Executive PA Magazine

Three Essential Traits for EA’s Post Lockdown’  Helping others navigate the path of change is specifically relevant in this regard: